Congress leader Sajjan Kumar was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Delhi High Court Monday in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case. He was acquitted five years ago by a trial court in Delhi in the case of the murder of five persons in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar on November 1, 1984, during the riots that followed the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi.
Kumar was awarded life term after the court found him guilty of offences of murder, promoting enmity between groups and defiling public property.
In 1984, days after Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh bodyguard on October 31, a mob instigated by Sajjan Kumar killed five Sikhs — Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh — in Raj Nagar area of Delhi Cantonment as anti-Sikh riots broke out in the capital.
In December 2002, Sajjan Kumar was acquitted by a sessions court in one of the anti-Sikh riot cases. However, the CBI registered another case against him on October 24, 2005, on the recommendations of G T Nanavati Commission. In 2010, the case was transferred to Delhi’s Karkardooma trial court where Kumar, along with six other suspects, namely Balwan Khokkar, Mahender Yadav, Captain Bagmal, Girdhari Lal, Krishan Khokkar, late Maha Singh and Santosh Rani, were named as accused. Three years later, on April 30, 2013, the court acquitted Kumar while convicting five others – Balwan Khokkar, Mahender Yadav, Kishan Khokkar, Girdhari Lal and Captain Bhagmal. The pronouncement of judgment witnessed a huge uproar by the protesters one of whom hurled a shoe at the judge soon after he acquitted Kumar.
The Delhi High Court picked up the matter after the CBI and Jagdish Kaur, a victim-cum-witness of the incident, filed an appeal through senior advocate H S Phoolka against Kumar’s acquittal. Among the five Sikhs who were killed by the mob were the husband and son of Jagdish Kaur and three brothers of Jagsher Singh. Another prime witness in the case is Nirpreet Kaur.
The CBI said the prime witness has named Kumar by way of her affidavits before the commissions set up to inquire role of the accused during the massacre, but the trial court gave “stray findings” rejecting her testimony against the leader.
During a court hearing on November 16, Cham Kaur, another key prosecution witness, had told the court that she had seen Kumar addressing the crowd in national capital’s Sultanpuri area in 1984.
“On October 31, 1984, we were watching TV news on the demise of Indira Gandhi. On November 1, 1984, when I stepped out to look for my goat, I saw accused Sajjan Kumar addressing the crowd and saying hamari ma maar di. Sardaro ko maar do (Our mother was killed. Kill the Sikhs). I quickly returned home and told the same to the neighbourhood. Then we climbed to the second floor and hid our family and children at night. The whole night we remained there,” Kaur had told District Judge Poonam A Bamba.
“On 02.11.1984…My son Kapoor Singh and my father Sardarji Singh were pulled out of the hiding place on the second floor, beaten badly and thrown down from the roof… Even I was assaulted and suffered an injury on the right side of my forehead… I still have the scar,” she added.
Other prominent leaders of the Congress like Kamal Nath and Jagdish Tytler have also been accused of playing a part in instigating mob during the 1984 riots.